Note: This was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
A former Calvinist wrote posts here and here detailing why he is no longer one. My first point, which answers to the objection that Calvinism is somehow “dehistoricized,” is answered here.
Now, as for me, I used to hate Calvinism. It made no sense that God would change people. I know that Rush song, “I choose free will,” so everyone can, right?
And something happened. I read the Bible and when I began learning what it actually said, I realized that the ideology behind the Rush song did not find itself repeated in Scripture, or the church fathers for that matter.
In fact, what put me on my path of understanding Calvinism was understanding God’s sovereignty. If God is all powerful, it stood to reason that God can control everything and is responsible for everything. When I first read the Book of Job, and found this how God responded to Job concerning charges that He was not fair, it made perfect sense to me.
“God is bigger and smarter than me,” I thought. “Of course the way He has things are for a good reason, even if I am too dumb to understand.”
Apparently, a lot of people do not understand God’s answer to Job:
Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His? (Job 40:8-9)
There is an accusation that Calvinism “destroys God’s justice,” but what we really see that it merely destroys man’s justice.
This is the thrust of his argument against Calvinism:
The idea here is that God could not have properly saved the elect, let alone demonstrated His justice to them, without having a group of people with whom He can be angry for all of eternity.
He then goes on to find the most unflattering and overly philosophical stuff you can find in a Calvinist screed to make them all look silly.
We already covered in part 1 what Paul actually says: God with patience prepared vessels of wrath so He can make known His mercy to “vessels of mercy.” That’s not my opinion, that is explicitly what Romans 9:22-23 says in its proper context. If you really want to take the idea to its logical extreme, simply read what Paul wrote earlier in that chapter, you know, the stuff about God hating Esau before he even did anything wrong… The reason given? “[S]o that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand” (Romans 9:11).
Now, because simply stating what the Scripture actually says would completely disprove what he would want God’s divine justice to be, he ignores it entirely and makes a mocking caricature:
Imagine a potter who labors continually until he has created a number of excellently wrought vessels of great beauty. But he is not satisfied with that—he must also construct a second class of vessels in order to smash them into a hundred bits. This proves to everyone that he has strength. The God of Calvinism is like this potter; he must have two classes of people: One group with which to demonstrate His love and mercy, and another group with which to demonstrate His wrath and hatred of sin.
To me, what is written above is ignorance at best (the potter is an allusion from Jeremiah 18, acting as a metaphor for God who literally does destroy the pots!) and blasphemy at worst (as the clear implication is that what Paul says about God’s justice must be wrong.) He mistakenly asserts that God only makes “excellently wrought vessels of great beauty,” However, according to Paul, God also makes vessels of wrath, “prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22).
Then, the blog goes into all of this philosophical mumbo jumbo I care not to even get into, simply because I don’t want to make this issue needlessly complicated. If R.C. Sproul, John Calvin, or anyone else adds to the words of the Scripture in order to rationalize the very clear things the Scripture says about God and His justice, then they are wrong. However, so are those that ignore what the Bible says about these things.
It might blow some people’s minds, but the Bible never says “God is not the author of evil.” It sounds Biblical, but it was actually coined by Irenaeus in response to pagans who read the Scripture and understood the logical extreme of an all powerful God sovereign over a creation with obviously evil stuff in it.
Being that we have a God that created Satan, it seems obvious to me that God made a creation purposely with evil in it. Case closed. You can try to twist words and make it sound like something else, but there was a snake in that garden and God knew about it. God made the snake and though He could have crushed it then, He is obviously waiting to do that in the future during the end times.
So, why do I have to go into a long philosophical defense as to why God would do this when I already know that God is love, He is patient, and He desires all men to be saved? We obviously do not have a vindictive and evil God. We have a God who “works all things for good for those who love Him, that have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And there it is! Now Romans 9, with the good and bad pots, makes sense. Good does not work itself out for the bad pots, it only does for the good pots. This is in the lens we must understand good and evil, and God’s sovereign purpose behind it. The point behind creation is not that it would be totally perfect and without evil, because otherwise God would have made it that way.
“The Lord is good,” as Nahum 1:7 simply says. He is just not good in the way we want Him to be good and therein lies our confusion. God’s not confused about this of course, but us wanting this our own way, we confuse ourselves.
God is good in the way He knows is good. He is the author of justice. He knows better than us. “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act” (Isaiah 48:11) God declares. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:19).
The Lord is righteous within her [Zion];
He will do no injustice.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He does not fail. (Zephaniah 3:5)
The irony in the charge that “Calvinists who hold to these ideas do not realize that their origins are in Greek philosophy rather than the Bible, and … fail to appreciate that their philosophy is actually creating a lens by which they read Paul” is that the whole way the author understands God’s justice is never made explicit.
For one, it is not defined using Scripture. So, I issue the challenge, what in Romans 9 is unfair if God explicitly says it is not? If God says He will do no injustice, isn’t His word good enough for the faithful, who supposedly walk by faith and not by sight?
Interestingly enough, the author’s assertion that Calvinism destroys God’s justice reads more like a litany of philosophical disagreements and almost never invokes Scripture. The author only quotes Scripture once saying,
For example, Psalm 5:5. In the Septuagint—the Old Testament text quoted by the New Testament writers and the canonical text of the ancient Church—Psalms 5:4 reads “For You are not a God who wills (thelon) lawlessness (anomian).”
Yes, this is true, but the implication of the author is that if God does not will lawlessness, then God cannot be responsible for any evil. However, interpreting Scripture by using Scripture, this one quote does not undo that God created Satan, that He used Satan to make David conduct a census, He explicitly permitted Satan to put Job through trial, and that He causes both well being and calamity (Isaiah 45:7).
God is certainly not one who wills lawlessness. He prepares vessels of wrath and grace. And He not being lawless, has a good reason for it. If we have faith in Christ and the Scripture, which Christ Himself had faith in, then we are to have faith like little children that our Father works all things for good.
Two things (though there are many):
1. You said “If God is all powerful, it stood to reason that God can control everything and is responsible for everything.” The latter does not necessarily follow the former, that is, just because God can control everything, does not mean that He therefore must.
2. Romans 9:22: The Greek behind “vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction” does not actually show God as the active agent, but rather those who are “vessels of wrath” are actually the active agents. I can look into this more, as it has been some time since I’ve looked at the Greek, but if I recall rightly, God is the active agent in the first part, that is, fitting the vessels of mercy, and the vessels of wrath are preparing themselves for destruction.
3. As far as Robin’s use of philosophy, there have been many books written about the Scriptural inadequacies of Calvinism, especially in regards to Calvinism’s dehistoricization of the Scriptures (follow the links at the bottom of Robin’s first article; he gave at least five). And usually it just turns into a verse throwing contest. This is why I did not retort your last post with more verses: you would have simply found others, then I would have found some, and so on and so forth. By showing the inadequacy of Calvinism philosophically, Robin is showing, in some ways, the absurdity of the conclusions of Calvinism… conclusions that violate Scripture as well, I might add. But you may want to ask Robin on the posting why he has chosen to look at Calvinism from a philosophical perspective. He would be better at answering that than I would.
1. Agreed, it doesn’t mean He must. It is because it is by His own will that some are shown mercy and some are not. If all had to be shown mercy, then God would be compelled to exercise His power, the same way to all people, and grace would no longer be grace.
2. I cannot agree with that point. We have 2 Thes 2:12 which specifically says how God will prepare those vessels of wrath.
3. Your third point seems to me rather weak. If my understanding of Scripture is terribly insufficient, that eventually I will contradict myself or find verses that you put forward that show that what I am quoting is an incomplete picture. The fact that those who oppose predestination in fear avoid talking about the Scriptures at all I think reveals that their belief is not grounded in Scripture. If you believe the Scripture explicitly teaches otherwise, then make a cogent Scriptural argument about it.
So we don’t retread ground, please read Augustine’s On Free Will and Grace. If you think the way he handles it is wrong, then I would be interested in what I am missing here.
Re my point 2: you have offered nothing more than a mere assertion that your interpretation is correct whereas I have looked at the origional text itself. Finding a verse and saying “I think it means this” is not an argument but an assertion. For someone who continually says go to the Scriptures you seem rather dismissive as soon as I start to analyze it in its original language.
I didn’t see any Greek, you just said you looked at it a while ago. However, I had a full treatment of that verse in part 1. The Greek says “skeuE orgEs” or “vessels of wrath,” which I don’t think anyone debates. The term people dispute over is “katErtismena” which means “prepared.” I am aware there is arguments in the greek over whether this word necessarily means someone made it, or if it prepared itself (such as yeast in dough prepares bread passively.) However, verse 21 discredits this line of thinking, because the metaphor of the potter says “Hath not the potter power
over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
So, without doing major leaps of logic, the word prepared in verse 22 refers to the potter, not some other metaphor.